Folk dances are important historically in the development of dance in China, some of the earliest dances in court rituals and ceremonies may have evolved from folk dances. Rulers from various dynasties collected folk dances, many of which eventually became court dances. However, at various times there had also been antipathy towards some folk dances and some emperors attempted to ban them.

Many of the folk dances are related to harvest and hunting and the ancient gods associated with them. For example, the Constellation Dance was performed to procure as much seed grain as there are stars in the sky, while the Harpoon Dance was associated to Fuxi who according to the mythology gave the Han people fish net, and the Plough Dance was connected to Shennong, the god of agriculture.

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